The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan

( 13 )

Overview

From the bestselling author of Nixonland: a dazzling portrait of America on the verge of a nervous breakdown in the tumultuous political and economic times of the 1970s.

In January of 1973 Richard Nixon announced the end of the Vietnam War and prepared for a triumphant second term—until televised Watergate hearings revealed his White House as little better than a mafia den. The next president declared upon Nixon’s resignation “our long national nightmare is over”—but then ...

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Overview

From the bestselling author of Nixonland: a dazzling portrait of America on the verge of a nervous breakdown in the tumultuous political and economic times of the 1970s.

In January of 1973 Richard Nixon announced the end of the Vietnam War and prepared for a triumphant second term—until televised Watergate hearings revealed his White House as little better than a mafia den. The next president declared upon Nixon’s resignation “our long national nightmare is over”—but then congressional investigators exposed the CIA for assassinating foreign leaders. The collapse of the South Vietnamese government rendered moot the sacrifice of some 58,000 American lives. The economy was in tatters. And as Americans began thinking about their nation in a new way—as one more nation among nations, no more providential than any other—the pundits declared that from now on successful politicians would be the ones who honored this chastened new national mood.

Ronald Reagan never got the message. Which was why, when he announced his intention to challenge President Ford for the 1976 Republican nomination, those same pundits dismissed him—until, amazingly, it started to look like he just might win. He was inventing the new conservative political culture we know now, in which a vision of patriotism rooted in a sense of American limits was derailed in America’s Bicentennial year by the rise of the smiling politician from Hollywood. Against a backdrop of melodramas from the Arab oil embargo to Patty Hearst to the near-bankruptcy of America’s greatest city, The Invisible Bridge asks the question: what does it mean to believe in America? To wave a flag—or to reject the glibness of the flag wavers?

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times - Jonathan Martin
In what has become his signature style, Rick Perlstein has hoovered up a staggering array of…revealing figures and anecdotes to recount that grim time in his engrossing new book…what makes The Invisible Bridge come alive is…the garish image that Mr. Perlstein paints of a country that seemed, as he puts it, "perfectly rotten." And it is his detailing of precisely what two different groups—roughly, the left and what Richard M. Nixon liked to call the silent majority—found so appalling in the years leading to the nation's bicentennial that makes this book invaluable to readers aching to find answers to why the country is so deeply polarized today…Throughout, Mr. Perlstein seems to leave no newspaper article, television broadcast or magazine piece unexamined. He is particularly deft linking pop culture to broader societal trends.
The New York Times Book Review - Frank Rich
It says much about Perlstein's gifts as a historian that he persuasively portrays this sulky, slender interlude between the fall of Nixon and the rise of Reagan…not just as a true bottom of our history but also as a Rosetta stone for reading America and its politics today. It says much about his talent as a writer that he makes these years of funk lively, engrossing and on occasion mordantly funny. Perlstein knows how to sift through a culture's detritus for the telling forgotten detail…[The Invisible Bridge] is both enjoyable as kaleidoscopic popular history of the old Mark Sullivan-Frederick Lewis Allen school and telling about our own historical moment.
Publishers Weekly
★ 06/02/2014
Perlstein (Nixonland) snuffs out any nostalgic glow in this massive and wide-ranging portrait of 1973 to 1976, from Watergate to Ronald Reagan’s challenge to Gerald Ford for the Republican presidential nomination. Full of the tragic, the infuriating, and the darkly funny, Perlstein captures the frantic nature of the period: Hank Aaron enduring racist slurs and death threats as he broke Babe Ruth’s home run record; the kidnapping of Patty Hearst; the fall of Saigon; and Chevy Chase mocking the hapless Gerald Ford on Saturday Night Live. This was an America that seemed dominated by “suspicious circles”—the skeptics and cynics that led much of America’s cultural and political discourse in the aftermath of Vietnam and Watergate. But Perlstein pulls together the threads that hinted at a conservatism in flux and ready for revolution, from violent battles over busing in Boston to anti-Equal Rights Amendment activism, but most of all, Ronald Reagan: his unwavering optimism in America, his carefully constructed image, and his growing appeal to mainstream America. As Perlstein notes in this outstanding work, “America had not yet become Reagan’s America,” but these were pivotal years that laid the groundwork for Reagan’s presidential triumph in 1980. Agent: Tina Bennett, William Morris Endeavor. (Aug.)
Booklist [starred review]
"This is an ambitious, wide-ranging, and superbly written account filled with wonderful insights into key players…Perlstein views the rise of Reagan, with his celebration of America’s ‘special destiny’ and moral superiority, as a rejection of a more honest and practical view of our role in the world after the traumas of Vietnam and Watergate. This is a masterful interpretation of years critical to the formation of our current political culture."
USA Today
"The author of Nixonland is certain to generate new debates among conservatives and liberals about Reagan’s legacy."
Criterion Collection - Farran Smith Nehame
"Magisterial."
The New York Times - Ross Douthat
"Perlstein's portrait of Reagan's youth and family life is wonderful, one of the best I've read."
The Los Angeles Times - David Ulin
"’The Invisible Bridge’ is a magnificent and nuanced work because of Perlstein's mastery of context, his ability to highlight not just the major players but more important, a broader sense of national narrative.”
Center for Equitable Growth - J. Bradford Delong
"The buzz from those who have read the Advance Readers’ Copies of Rick Perlstein’s The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan is that it is truly superb–even better than his Goldwater book Before the Storm and his Richard Nixon book Nixonland…"
The Lowell Sun
"Perlstein was the author of the brilliant Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America, and this book ought to be even better."
Entertainment Weekly
“A painstakingly crafted illustration of the political landscape that made the improbable inevitable.”
CNN.com - Julian Zelizer
"Rick Perlstein skillfully recounts the era that was shaped by the scandal and the way in which the sordid activities of the Nixon administration unfolded on a day-by-day basis."
NPR.org
“One of the most remarkable literary achievements of the year... The Invisible Bridge covers three years in 800 pages, but somehow, you don't want it to end.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“Invaluable….Perlstein is among the best young historians working today….His rich, deeply knowledgeable books…tell us almost as much about 21st century developments like the birth of the Tea Party and the current Congress' intractable gridlock as they do about the politics of the 1960s and '70s.”
BookReporter.com
"Magnificent…an extraordinary book, massive in scope and detail, and essential to a complete understanding of our nation’s politics. There are two contemporary historians who must be read by anyone hoping to understand American politics. One is Robert Caro, and the other is Rick Perlstein."
author of The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court - Jeffrey Toobin
Nixonland is a grand historical epic. Rick Perlstein has turned a story we think we know — American politics between the opposing presidential landslides of 1964 and 1972 — into an often surprising and always fascinating new narrative. This riveting book, full of colorful detail and great characters, brings back to life an astonishing era — and shines a new light on our own."
Nixon's White House counsel - John W. Dean
"This is a terrific read. What a delight it is to discover the new generation of historians like Rick Perlstein not only getting history correct but giving us all fresh insights and understanding of it."
author of President Reagan: The Triumph of Imagination - Richard Reeves
"Rick Perlstein has written a fascinating account of the rise of Richard Nixon and a persuasive argument that this angry, toxic man will always be part of the American landscape."
author of The Age of Reagan: A History, 1974-2008 - Sean Wilentz
Rick Perlstein's Nixonland digs deep into a decisive period of our history and brings back a past that is all the scarier for its intense humanity. With a firm grasp on the larger meaning of countless events and personalities, many of them long forgotten, Perlstein superbly shows how paranoia and innuendo flowed into the mainstream of American politics after 1968, creating divisive passions that have survived for decades." —
New York Times Book Review - Frank Rich
“A Rosetta stone for reading America and its politics today… a book that is both enjoyable as kaleidoscopic popular history and telling about our own historical moment… Epic work.”
The New York Times
“Engrossing...invaluable to readers aching to find answers to why the country is so deeply polarized today.”
Chicago Reader
“This is gripping material… Perlstein's gift lies in illustrating broad political trends through surprising snapshots of American culture and media.”
The New Republic
“Rick Perlstein is becoming an American institution...a superb researcher and writer.”
Bookpage
“Sweeping, insightful and richly rewarding…His riveting narrative continues the author’s efforts to chronicle the ascendancy of conservatism in American political life…This is a fascinating, extremely readable account of an important decade in America’s political history.”
Newsday
“He tells a great tale, in every sense … It says a lot about the quality of Rick Perlstein's material and storytelling that more than 700 pages into his latest cinder block of ink and tree, I could still keenly relish yet another tasty fact, another aside… Also extraordinary is the writer's herculean research and the many relevant or just colorful items he uses to fill in the edges and corners and form the frame of this sprawling portrait…there's much to enjoy here.”
Salon
“One of America’s greatest chroniclers of the origins of the modern American right wing.”
Eclectablog
"Perlstein’s narrative gift allows him to take Reagan’s seeming simplicity and dissecting the layers of complexity that went into crafting it."
The Economist
"A volume on the Reagan presidency surely beckons. If it is as crammed with historical gems as this one, readers will be well served."
The Wall Street Journal
“Rick Perlstein has established himself as one of our foremost chroniclers of the modern conservative movement…much of ‘The Invisible Bridge’ is not about politics per se but about American society in all its weird, amusing, and disturbing permutations. He seems to have read every word of every newspaper and magazine published in the 1970s and has mined them for delightful anecdotes…it would be hard to top it for entertainment value.”
Boston Globe
“Enthralling, entertaining… oddly charming and ultimately irresistible.”
The New Yorker
“For Americans younger than fifty-five, the story of conservatism has been the dominant political factor in their lives, and Rick Perlstein has become its chief chronicler, across three erudite, entertaining, and increasingly meaty books…. ‘The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan’…finally brings into focus the saga’s leading character, Ronald Reagan….What gives ‘The Invisible Bridge’ its originality is the way Perlstein embeds Reagan’s familiar biography in the disillusionments of the seventies.”
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“A mixture of scholarly precision, outrage and wry humor.”
Financial Times
“Perlstein has an eye for telling detail, understands the potency of American regionalism, and is shrewd about electoral technique and rhetoric. He vividly captures personalities, and his biographical chapter on Reagan is an especially masterful distillation. He is empathetic in entering into his subjects’ perspectives, gifted at recounting the sheer bizarreness of history’s twists and turns.”
Washington Post
“Perlstein ranges far beyond political history, in his case touching on just about everything interesting that happened in the United States between 1973 and 1976… The narrative bounces entertainingly and revealingly from high policy to low humor.”
Associated Press Staff
“To call this book rich in anecdotes is an understatement. Perlstein adopts a you-are-there narrative that gives the reader a sense of what average Americans took in during the turbulent period from Watergate to the 1976 elections… the mini-biography of Reagan nestled in the pages is a page turner, as is Perlstein's climactic account of the nail-biter presidential nominating convention in 1976.”
CSMonitor.com
“Perlstein has an unmatched ability to convey the sense of an era. Even readers who didn’t live through 1970s America will feel as if they did after reading this book.”
Library Journal
09/01/2014
The third installment in a series of four books focusing on the American political and social climate of the 1970s, Perlstein (Nixonland) opens this volume with the end of the Vietnam War and finishes with Ronald Reagan's failed attempt to gain the Republican nomination in 1976. Perlstein demonstrates how a nervous nation disenchanted with politicians (owing to Watergate, Vietnam, and tensions with "Red China") and in throes of social change was becoming primed for a leader like Reagan and a new, modern conservatism. At times, it seems the author is stretching for a connection between certain events and Reagan's rise to power, and, overall, Perlstein paints a convincing picture. Occasionally, long descriptions of seemingly out-of-place topics are a bit jarring but they aren't bothersome enough to detract from the narrative. Particularly engaging are the author's recounts of Reagan's deft political moves, charm, and willingness to find faults in a nation unwilling to look for them. This is certainly one of the most thorough political investigations of this time frame and an important read for scholars of this period. VERDICT Recommended for readers of political science, American history, presidential history, those interested in Watergate, and those concerned with the beginnings of the oil crisis.—Benjamin Brudner, Curry Coll. Lib., Milton, MA
The Barnes & Noble Review

Rick Perlstein's The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan spans the years 1973 to 1976, a period during which the American sense of well-being was at a memorably low ebb. These were the years in which Gerald Ford, in the unelected president's first address before a joint session of Congress, declared that "the state of the Union is not good." Two girls wrote a Michigan newspaper columnist to ask, à la Virginia in 1897, if there was a Santa Claus, only to be told that "there is no such man." Meanwhile, the frenzied final helicopter evacuation of Americans from Vietnam before the fall of Saigon was dubbed Operation Frequent Wind, "like a reference to flatulence," Perlstein observes.

The Invisible Bridge is Perlstein's third entry in an expansive multivolume history of the modern conservative movement. It follows 2001's Before the Storm, which told the story of Barry Goldwater's 1964 run for the presidency, and 2008's Nixonland, which traced Richard Nixon's 1972 landslide presidential victory. Like its predecessors, The Invisible Bridge is exhaustively researched in a specific way, one that's central to its pleasures — besides building on the work of previous historians, Perlstein has pored through the editorial and letters-to-the-editor sections of small-town papers and watched copious news broadcasts of the period to gauge the national mood on everything from the return of Vietnam's POWs to Watergate to Boston's school busing crisis to Patty Hearst.

In his sprawling, high-octane account, which culminates with Ronald Reagan's insurgent challenge to Ford for the 1976 Republican presidential nomination, he counts the milestones on a journey into national gloom. The Vietnam War had left some 58,000 Americans dead, and many Americans were unconvinced by Nixon's insistence that the U.S. had achieved "peace with honor." The Watergate hearings, which were televised to a rapt nation beginning in May 1973, were referred to by one senator as "a national funeral that just goes on day after day." Inflation, unemployment, and crime rates were high, and the looming bicentennial was shaping up to be a party nobody much felt like attending.

After Nixon's resignation in August 1974, the country was ripe for a political savior. Jimmy Carter, playing the part of the humble farmer (he was neither) and giving corny speeches calling for a government "as filled with love as are the American people," hoped to be that person. His surprising victory over a crowded Democratic field mystified the political establishment: diplomat and consummate Washington insider Averell Harriman marveled, "How can he be nominated? I don't know him, and neither do any of my friends."

Perlstein's book concludes before Carter's election — we all know how that panned out — but the true subject of The Invisible Bridge is the man who eventually led the GOP from the wilderness — Ronald Reagan, although again, the book wraps up four years before he was to step into his greatest role. Perlstein notes in his preface that a central theme of his work is "the myopia of pundits, who so frequently fail to notice the very cultural ground shifting beneath their feet." Indeed, the author turns up ample evidence of that myopia where Reagan is concerned, with commentators counting him out at every turn for being, variously, a former B-movie actor, a Nixon apologist, a right-wing populist, and, of course, a senior citizen. ("At sixty-five years of age," Reagan was "too old to consider seriously another run at the Presidency," the New York Times reported after Ford managed to squeak out the nomination.)

In 1976, the pundits didn't see the right-wing infrastructure building — direct mail campaigns, get-out-the-vote efforts, seed money from wealthy patrons like Joseph Coors — that was helping the Gipper win converts across the land. (His ascension certainly took Ford's people by surprise: a panicky campaign memo after the president lost the Texas primary to Reagan warned, "We are in real danger of being out- organized by a small number of highly motivated right wing nuts.") More broadly, though, they, and the rest of what Perlstein refers to throughout the book as "the suspicious circles" — those who, in the wake of Vietnam and Watergate, saw criticism and dissent as a more mature form of patriotism — didn't grasp how appealing Reagan's warm reassurances would be to the other tribe of Americans, those who, Perlstein writes, would "never break faith with God's chosen nation."

"You can call it mysticism if you want to," Reagan told one crowd, "but I have always believed that there was some divine plan that placed this great continent between two oceans to be sought out by those who were possessed of an abiding love of freedom and a special kind of courage." That kind of message electrified citizens who were on the ground in their communities, battling with religious zeal Roe v. Wade, the Equal Rights Amendment, and "Satanic" textbooks. The firmly leftist Perlstein is no Reagan admirer himself, calling him out repeatedly for flagrant distortions, misquotations, and untruths (in some instances, his writing verges on snarky). But he recognizes his subject's dazzling political skills. "At turning complexity and confusion and doubt into simplicity and stout-heartedness and certainty," Perlstein writes, "Ronald Reagan's power was simply awesome." So awesome, the author suggests, in a notion that will surely be explored in his next volume, that Reagan closed the brief window that existed for a more critical, evolved patriotism. Indeed, it's difficult to imagine an American president anytime soon giving a State of the Union address declaring that "the state of the Union is not good." There is no such man — or woman.

Barbara Spindel has covered books for Time Out New York, Newsweek.com, Details, and Spin. She holds a Ph.D. in American Studies.

Reviewer: Barbara Spindel

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781476782416
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 8/5/2014
  • Pages: 880
  • Sales rank: 16,404
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 2.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Rick Perlstein is the author of Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America, a New York Times bestseller picked as one of the best nonfiction books of the year by more than a dozen publications, and Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus, which won the 2001 Los Angeles Times Book Award for history. He lives in Chicago.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 13 )
Rating Distribution

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(7)

4 Star

(1)

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Sort by: Showing all of 13 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 5, 2014

    I'm rating this a 5 based on Perlstein's previous two books and

    I'm rating this a 5 based on Perlstein's previous two books and to counter the lousy reviews that are pretty much based on the reviewers' ideological biases and their efforts to trash anything that treats Reagan as anything other than a saint.  For example, the Shirley plaigarism charges.  Shirley wrote a hagiographic bio for Reagan and is deeply associated with right wing advocacy groups.  Take the 1-star reviews with a huge dose of caution.

    9 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 6, 2014

    lol, I love the old plagiarism controversy. It's not plagiarism

    lol, I love the old plagiarism controversy. It's not plagiarism if it's cited (English class 101 folks) and he does use citations in conjunction with an online reference. Also, for reference, do an online search for Craig Shirley to learn that he is president of a conservative public affairs group who represents the likes of Ann Coulter and Citizens United to name a few....

    8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 5, 2014

    I appreciate that Rick Perlstein took the time to cite all of hi

    I appreciate that Rick Perlstein took the time to cite all of his resource online.   In books that are researched 
    as this one, footnotes can take hundreds of pages.  While reading the book, it is easy to cross reference his
    source by going online.  Since I use a nook, it's especially helpful.   

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 5, 2014

    While the author's other two books in the trilogy are very good

    While the author's other two books in the trilogy are very good reads, I can not give this book the same stellar review. No citations or notes at the end like in the other two volumes. 
    Correctly site your sources as they are shown in the book, this was very confusing and affects the accuracy of what Perlstein is trying to tell us about Reagan and Nixon. 

    2 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 4, 2014

    Awful, Awful!  This man plagiarized from Craig Shirley's "

    Awful, Awful! 

    This man plagiarized from Craig Shirley's "Reagan's Revolution" WITHOUT citations! 

    Do not read. He is a thief and a liar!

    2 out of 25 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 10, 2014

    If you want to know anything about conservatives, this book will

    If you want to know anything about conservatives, this book will be a complete waste of time.  On the other hand, if you want to know about the caricature of conservatives that Democrat and other Leftist ideologues seat about in their fever dreams, this should do the trick.

    1 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 5, 2014

    I think the overview and the Meet the Author section already bea

    I think the overview and the Meet the Author section already bear a slant in praise. The 1 stars can't all be wrong, BUT, they cannot all be right. I think there are at least two other perspectives which are being overlooked in the Overview and the Meet the Author write-ups. I think I will make up my own mind. I think we are at a time where the ideals we once had were a luxury of the times. Resources are short and our populace has lost perspective and they have lost their way. Read and think for yourself.
    "To thine own self, be true."

    1 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 4, 2014

    Not a good book. There are many, many, many parts in this book w

    Not a good book. There are many, many, many parts in this book where Perlstein lifts direct quotes from other, more accurate, books on Reagan, without citing them.

    There is no bibliography at the end of the book and the website "citing" does not match up to the inserts in the book. 

    I seriously do not recommend this for anyone.  

    1 out of 18 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 18, 2014

    Finally some factual history

    Rick Perlstein's book, "The Invisble Bridge," does something that drives right-wing conservatives crazy: it shines a light on the mythology of "saint" Ronald Reagan and it tells the factual truth about the history of the conservative movement from Barry Goldberg to Ronald Reagan. This book is a must read for any independent voter to understand the current problems that are plaguing our country.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 15, 2014

    The Invisible Bridge

    Excellent read, well-sourced and convincing, very relevent to the present situation.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 15, 2014

    This is a superb and entertaining history of the early '70s that

    This is a superb and entertaining history of the early '70s that vividly brings back those years for one who lived through Nixon's fall and Reagan's rise.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 5, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted August 8, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

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